Cracking your knuckles may not exactly be the most discreet habit in the world, but it sure is satisfying.
Using your hands throughout the day leads to muscles and joints tightening up. Cracking your knuckles tends to give your your fingers and joints relief from that pressure buildup. The “cracking” sound it makes is produced when you increase the space between the joints as it causes gas bubbles in the joint fluid to burst. Think of it like blowing up a balloon and stretching the walls of the balloon until it pops. That’s also the reason you can’t crack the same joints twice in succession—it takes time for the gas bubbles to accumulate in the joint.
The release that people feel after popping and bending their joints is a compulsion that can be pretty hard to break—even when well-meaning friends and family warn you about the risks of continuing this bad habit. And one that you’ve probably heard over and over again is that cracking knuckles causes arthritis.
Will I Get Arthritis From Cracking My Knuckles?
Now, here’s the good news…
There is no scientific evidence that cracking your knuckles will have any adverse effect on you—which basically means that cracking your knuckles isn’t proven to lead to joint conditions like arthritis.
In fact, one study on knuckle cracking actually concludes that that habit is quite harmless after conducting experiments on himself. Over his entire lifetime, he regularly cracked knuckles on one hand and tracked its condition using x-rays over the span of decades. The study showed that there are no differences between his left or right hand. This was supported by a larger study who concluded the same thing.
That said, compulsive knuckle crackers aren’t completely off the hook.
Think of what it takes to get that satisfying crack. Bending your fingers forward and back, pulling it forcefully to get a pop, twisting and turning joints at odd angles—all these can actually take its toll on the joint and cause the cartilage to wear away over time when its done constantly.
Additionally, one study conducted back in the 90s found that people who regularly cracked their knuckles actually had weaker grip strength–on top of the possibility, albeit rare, of injuring yourself in your attempt to get a good pop.
Even if cracking knuckles is unlikely to cause arthritis, there’s still good reason to stop the habit.